49 Percent Oxygen- 14 days in ICU; The Journey of an Allergy Child (Part 5 and end)
(This part of Adam’s story is the most difficult to remember and write about)
Immediately after Adam told me he could not breathe, I phoned his allergy specialist. She had me take him to ER (emergency room) while she called ahead. By the time I got Adam to the ER, he was blue. His oxygen was 54 percent. The ER doctors put the IV into the biggest vein they could find. Adam started screaming while I fainted sliding down the wall I was leaning against. With oxygen and antibiotics, Adam stabilized that night. While his lungs looked clear in the x-rays, his oxygen level would not rise above 80 percent. It was decided to transfer Adam to a pediatric ICU ward at a bigger hospital. The choices were: the local general hospital where Adam was overdosed by a nurse at 18 months (see part 3), Children’s Hospital that was over 200 miles away, and lastly a regional hospital in the next county. Adam’s specialist fought with the insurance companies to get him to the third choice (After November 1995 the winner of that fight would have been the insurance company:see next to last paragraph). Adam was transferred the next day. He was overseen by three infection disease specialists, and one hospital resident. That day the x-rays were retaken and both lungs were full of fluid. Besides a battery of blood tests daily, he received asthma treatments, steroids, and antibiotics to fight the infection. Nothing worked. His oxygen level was up and down, but never close to normal. On the eighth day everything got worse. His oxygen level went down to 49 percent. The doctors decided to put Adam “under” so he would need less oxygen for his organs (Remember Adam was 13). My question to them was, “What effect will this have on his organs in the future?” Their answer was they did not know. During the time he was out, the doctors went down into his lungs with a camera. They told me that the mucus in the lungs looked as thick as “spaghetti”! They took samples and sent the samples to various parts of the United States for testing in order to identity whatever was causing his disease. About 11PM that night (my husband and I took turns staying overnight at the hospital), I got a call from the resident doctor. He told me that 2 tests returned negative. He thought that all we could do was hope. My response was, “Did you or did you not take THREE tests?” Yes, he answered, but said it was 2 AM in Nashville and too late to call. My response was: 1.I did not CARE what time it was. 2. He could not do a diagnosis until the third test was in. 3. CALL THEM! He called the facility and the third test was positive. The doctors put Adam on Erythromycin IV. Adam started improving immediately. On the third night after the IV, Adam’s vein collapsed. The resident doctor tried 17 times to get the IV into his foot before looking for another site (I was not present at the time). By the 14th day Adam was ready to come home. He was on crutches because of the trauma to his foot and he had secondary chicken pox because of the steroids. As time goes by his organs sometimes react abnormally, but all in all he has recovered. He was very lucky. There was NO scaring of his lungs. That was amazing.
One month later, November 1995, I was reading the Wall Street Journal. I noted an article about a rider in a bill passed by Congress. This bill ALLOWED the health insurance companies to change from Nonprofit to Profit. I thought to myself, “This is Bad”. I then watched through the news, CEOs taking huge fees, disrupting and mismanaging solvent companies. I watched the rates of health insurance companies surge to the heights it is today. I watched the insurance companies deny health insurance to individuals all in the name of their stock holders and the bottom line. Now, 14 years later, Congress wants to fix the very problem they created. If my son’s problem occurred after this rider was passed, there is no doubt in my mind he would not be alive today.
Years later, we discovered that Adam has always been a Celiac. The doctor that told my sons they did not have a wheat (gluten) allergy anymore was wrong (Part 4)! The Celiac disease did not cause his crisis in 1995. However, it did lower his autoimmune response to the viral/bacterial infection he caught from the Simi aftershock (Part 4).